BIG SKY- The only time Vernon Bays spent at Big Sky resort was when he worked on the line in one its kitchens.
And the way he figures it, the only way he'll ever get back to one of Montana's posh communities is through the service entrance.
Bays has spent the last decade of his life in Big Sky and has seen the resorts, one after another, march up the road toward Lone Peak. And now he's seeing exclusive gated communities like The Yellowstone Club piggyback on up.
"I've never been up to The Yellowstone Club and I probably never will be," Bays said one cold winter day after he got off work at The Corral bar and restaurant in Big Sky. "They're excluding pretty much the working man from getting up there."
Well, some working men make it there - those working men and women who are worth at least $3 million, those who are willing to pay a $250,000 initiation fee, those who are able to foot the $16,000 annual dues, those who are able to throw down hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars for a condo or custom-built home.
Some others make it through the gates, too. But they're usually driving cement mixers, hauling water heaters or making a delivery.
Ask Terry Thomas of Big Sky. He has installed numerous radiant heating as well as air conditioning systems in some of the club members' homes. Or ask his friend Donny Rigel. He's a concrete contractor who has poured some up at The Yellowstone Club.
"I know for a fact that the day the last house is built, that will be the last day an average Joe gets in there," Rigel said.
Unless, of course, someone breaks in, he added wryly.
But locals know they would have a hard time being local if tourists didn't fly in, buy in and stay.
"If tourists didn't come here, I wouldn't have a job," Bays said. "They're a completely different world from the locals, but I cater to the tourists."
And Thomas, who contracts at The Yellowstone Club and beyond, said he thinks the same of the homes up the hill as he does of everyone else's.
"To me, it's just another job," Thomas said. "All rich people ain't jerks."